At face value, Acid Nerve’s Death’s Door struck fear into my heart. It gave me similar nerves going into it as the typical insurmountable games such as From Software’s Dark Souls or Acid Nerve’s previous, smaller title Titan Souls. The type of games that, while great, I find to have too high of a skill and patience ceiling for me to commit to. In all honesty, my expectations were quite low when coming into the game…
That being said, I was legitimately surprised to find that my expectations were wrong, and I am so happy that I gave this game a shot. Death’s Door shares many traits with one of my all-time favourite game series Ori and the Blind Forest. This game has a beautifully bleak art style, a cute yet deadly protagonist, fast-paced action, witty and humorous characters, and an interesting world. And best of all the gameplay, whilst tough in key boss and wave-based enemy moments, is also very fair. Death’s Door may just be my game of the year so far.
For some context, you are a cute crow—but also a reaper of souls—assigned to reap a soul only to have it stolen from underneath you. You’re then tasked by the thief to venture across multiple locations untouched by death to gather Giant Souls to unlock a mysterious locked door. Each location is vastly different to the others, but just as deadly, taking you across places such as a bleak medieval castle, steampunk dungeons, Mayan-esque temple forests, rich antique palaces, and autumn gardens.
The soft art style is contrastingly vibrant and bleak, shifting depending on the location you’re in, giving the game an oddly soothing and mellow ease which meshes well with its beautiful soundtrack. Speaking of, I’m personally a big fan of atmospheric original soundtracks: I collect excellent atmospheric soundtracks such as those of Christopher Larkin’s Hollow Knight, Austin Wintory’s Journey, Ryan Roth and Halina Heron’s Moon Hunters, and, of course, Gareth Coker’s Ori games—and I’m proud to add David Fenn’s Death’s Door to the list as well. Between the art style, the music, and exploration, I feel a zen experience of euphoric atmosphere, only to be kicked into the mood when thrust into an intense boss battle.
Speaking of intense boss battles, the game was definitely challenging but, save for repeating, not of the cruel harshness of Dark Souls. The Crow swipes quickly and cleanly and dodges when you want him to, only falling by your own immediate mistakes. But with a handful of deaths between boss battles, learning the behaviours of bosses and enemies alike never felt frustrating. It didn’t take me long to overcome some mighty challenges. While I died often, I couldn’t help but chuckle every single damn time at the absurdity of the death scene. Zooming into my limp, face-planted crow body—which might as well look like he’s taking a nap—with big thick transparent letters “DEATH” written across the screen with excessive camera shake and an over-the-top hum. It’s humorous and always diverted my attention from the fact that I stuffed up.
The bosses aren’t the only challenging ones. On their own, the variety of standard enemies are easily overcome, but provide just as equal a challenge when in assorted groups. Having to dodge arrows from archers while navigating suicide potters (they have pots on their head and explode) on your way to the big, burly baddy that’s making his way towards you. The gameplay provides many options to tackle them too. You can use your standard sword, a bow and arrow, quick daggers (if you find them),even a Kamehameha fireball (HE EVEN DOES THE KAMEHAMEHA HANDS!!!). You can use the enemies against each other, ricochet their ranged attacks against them, lure them and shoot explosives close to them, even have a grenade launcher shoot at their own allies while you kite them. The gameplay is magnificent.
The characters and minor added details are just as magnificent, littered with fleeting moments I will always remember: being called a little shit by Grandma, having a song sung to me by a forest dweller because I retrieved their horn, or a guy with a tomb as a head wanting me to hit him as hard as I can to kill him because he wants to die but can’t. My favourite little added detail is when you swipe at the signs: you cut it in half, then can read the half of the sign with the other half missing from the text box. I love touches like this!
If there is one thing that I would change, though, it would be the addition of a map. Too many times did I get lost—particularly in King Frog’s Forest—looping around past the same trees over and over, trying to find out where I needed to go. While I find getting lost is an issue that I have even in the most linear of games, I feel like others may come across the same issue despite exploring. But that’s the only gripe I have with this game and it’s quite a minor one at that.
As a whole, Death’s Door is a brilliantly crafted experience that I’m so glad I took the chance to play. I’ll be putting on my top shelf (that’s what I call my favourite Steam games category) next to the greats, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Acid Nerve.